Essays in Romanticism

Wordsworth’s Strenuous Idleness: Science and Poetics of Inertia

Essays in Romanticism (2018), 25, (1), 101–121.

Abstract

This essay reads the persistent recurrence of “strenuous idleness,” and other such oxymoronic cognates, within William Wordsworth’s output, with a particular focus upon the MS B version of “The Ruined Cottage” (1798). It sets such concerns within the context of the changing scientific treatment of inertia across the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, during which time Newton’s vis inertiae produced a variety of responses, before finally fading from view in the revisionist physics of J. C. Maxwell and others. Wordsworth, I contend, inherits and transfigures an extant treatment of resistant matter, which productively complicates socio-economic accounts of idleness. I conclude by drawing structural parallels between the scientific treatment of inertia and the (pseudo-)science of prosody, arguing that both stand to benefit from an enlarged temporal envelope.

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Jones, Ewan J.